Following a tame practice session on Friday, things got wild today for the NTT IndyCar Series on the streets of St Petersburg. The morning practice was filled with carnage as drivers got tangled and cars were badly damaged. Hours later, a surprise emerged in qualifying as Scott McLaughlin earned his first career pole in the series.

McLaughlin, who has only qualified inside the top ten twice in his career, put his No. 3 Chevrolet on pole in impressive fashion. The 28-year old outdueled his teammate Will Power, who has earned nine career poles at St Petersburg over the course of his career. Though it is just his second full-time season, this will be the third race for McLaughlin on this circuit, and he has clearly gotten a firm grasp on this track.

McLaughlin took the top spot with a lap of 59.4821 seconds Saturday afternoon. The driver of the No. 3 machine has loved working with engineer Ben Bretzman. “I love qualifying, and you’ve got to put it all on the line,” McLaughlin said. “I’m working really well with Ben. The DEX Imaging Chevy, the car is just phenomenal. I’m super proud of everyone. I just feel confident, and now I’m so happy.”

“I’m a competitive bloke, so I hate starting at the back,” McLaughlin proclaimed. “At the end of the day, it’s a new thing for me, starting from the front and leading a group into the first corner. I’m used to braking with people in front of me, so I’m going to have to make sure I don’t overshoot it like an idiot. I can’t wait for tomorrow. It’s going to be big.”

Team Penske owns the front row, which will be key at the start of tomorrow's race. The first turn has always been chaotic and this year will likely be no different. McLaughlin and Power will have a plan going into Turn 1 but both drivers are going to be hungry for a win. McLaughlin is still searching for his first career victory while Power had just one win last season.

Qualifying began with a busy first group that saw Alexander Rossi just missing out on advancing to the next round. The Andretti Autosport driver will have to start his bounce-back season from the 13th starting position. One driver that did advance out of that round was rookie sensation Kyle Kirkwood. The AJ Foyt Racing driver will start 12th tomorrow.

The second group in the first round of qualifying also had a championship contender that failed to advance. Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O'Ward made a mistake near the end of the session and nearly put his No. 5 Chevrolet into the concrete barrier. He will have his work cut out for him tomorrow as he starts from the 16th position. It was a tough afternoon for the team as his teammate Felix Rosenqvist qualified 21st.

Those just missing out on the Firestone Fast Six were Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, and three Chip Ganassi Racing cars. Six-time champ Scott Dixon will start 7th, just ahead of teammate Marcus Ericsson. Defending series champion Alex Palou will start 10th, which is great considering how much damage his No. 10 Honda suffered in the morning practice session when he made heavy contact with a concrete barrier.

Defending race winner Colton Herta will start from the inside of Row 2. Joining him there will be Ed Carpenter Racing driver Rinus VeeKay, who is aiming to have a strong rebound year after struggling in the second half of last season. Row 3 belongs to Andretti Autosport driver Romain Grosjean and Meyer Shank Racing's Simon Pagenaud. Grosjean was fastest in practice yesterday, but had a major incident this morning.

Grosjean made heavy contact with the rear of Takuma Sato's car. The two former Formula One drivers came together entering Turn 10 and Grosjean got underneath the No. 51 Honda machine that he drove last season. Fortunately, both drivers were uninjured but neither wanted to take blame for the incident.

Several other drivers suffered damage during the morning's 45-minute session. Jack Harvey was first to make contact, hitting the barrier in Turn 9. Near the end of the session, Palou hit at nearly the exact same spot. Jimmie Johnson also spun on the course. Every team did an incredible job of making repairs in time to get their cars ready in time for qualifying.

Coverage of the 100-lap Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg begins at Noon ET tomorrow on NBC. There will be a 30-minute warmup session at 8:46 with live coverage on Peacock Premium. The winner of the season-opening race has gone on to win the series championship in each of the last three seasons.